Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Land Ho! Fifty Glorious Years in the Age of Exploration


Are you exploring for a good geography book? Look no further!  Before your next geography lesson, read Land Ho!  Fifty Glorious Years in the Age of Exploration, written and illustrated by Nancy Winslow Parker, to learn all about twelve famous explorers.

Did you know that Columbus was not actually searching for America when he found it?  Or that many of the explorers after him were looking for a sea route to China instead?  During the golden age of exploration, men set sail with hopes of finding different travel routes, treasures, and spices.  The fact that they came ashore on uncharted land was not only one of the greatest accidents of all time, it also led to one of the greatest discoveries – the New World!  From Columbus to Cabrillo, this book follows the adventures and misadventures of twelve famous explorers from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  Nancy Winslow Parker has mapped out a truly enjoyable and educational journey filled with dozens of detailed and colorful illustrations depicting the explorers’ ships, equipment, and travel routes.  Parker (2001) writes, “In fifty years, the explorers discovered countless Indian tribes, a new ocean (the Pacific), rivers, plants, animals, and geographical wonders”(pg 3).  So set sail and explore this book!

Curriculum Connections
In the area of geography, the  Virginia History and Social Studies SOL’s for grades 3-5  stresses the importance of  understanding basic geographic maps and concepts.  Land Ho!  Fifty Glorious Years in the Age of Exploration is appropriate for multiple grade levels and could be used to directly address SOL’s 3.3a, 3.3b, 3.5d.

If you would like to create some geography sense in your classroom and find out more about the basics of exploration,  here are a few suggestions for grades 3-5:

  • Play “Who am I”?  Have students draw explorers out of a hat and give out clues.  The rest of the class will guess.  This game can also be played by drawing countries and having the students give directional map clues.   
  • Shower curtain Map – Take a shower curtain and draw a map of the world.  You can use an overhead to project the map onto the shower curtain.  Have the children draw cards from a bowl.  On each card will be a country, or a river, or a compass rose etc…and the students should then take turns labeling the map.  You can also use just a US map and have them take turns labeling the 50 states. 

Additional Resources
Try these websites where you’ll find lesson plans, worksheets, activities and free online games to aid in your geographic education quest.

  • National Geographic– a link that takes you directly to a free online education resource for exploring countries of the world
  • King Tut’s Treasure – an exploration lesson plan for K-2
  • Lewis & Clark – an exploration lesson plan for 3rd-5th
  • National Geographic – a link that takes you directly to a geography game.  Kids can do this at home!
  • Owl & Mouse – a website that offers free maps & free software!
  • TLS Books – a website that offers loads of free printable geography worksheets

Book: Land Ho!  Fifty Glorious Years in the Age of Exploration
Author:  Nancy Winslow Parker
Illustrator:  Nancy Winslow Parker
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date:  2001
Pages:  40 pages
Grade Range:  3-5
ISBN-13:  978-0060277598

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